All outstanding sales managers engage in coaching on a daily basis and counseling on an as needed basis. Sales coaching is the proactive manner to help support the mentoring provided for sales professionals to improve their performance and to help them when having difficulties. It is mainly focused on maintaining existing, strong performance and moving it further. Counseling on the other hand is a reactive fractured approach implemented when an employee is performing below expectations due to either a skill deficiency or an attitude deficiency. It is mainly focused on restoring performance to a minimal acceptable level or failing that, removing the employee from that job.
I remember the first time that I was managing a full sales force of individuals and I was asked to evaluate the sales performance of a young woman by the name of Ivy. Unfortunately I was predisposed because I had discovered that Ivy had very poor selling skills, was typically late and was not meeting the quota goals assigned to her. It was up to me to decide whether or not she was worth keeping or terminating her employment. So, with both solutions open to for either coaching or counseling I used both to help increase her performance and reverse many of the poor things people were saying. In the next few moments I will provide you some information on coaching and how to use it to help those with weak into personal skills.
My belief is that all sales representatives should be coached on an ongoing basis. It is a form of mentoring that enables ongoing dialogue between the manager and the subordinate so that feedback on performance doesn't occur only when there is a problem. Nor should it occur and only one time of the year-the performance review. Moreover it allows for excellent sales work and customer service to be recognized, supported, exploited and then finally conveyed to others.
Unfortunately many sales managers spend 10 times more of their effort and energy counseling. Managers often confuse the two and don't understand the difference and usually respond only to problems, meaning that the preponderance of their time is spent on correcting weak efforts rather than supporting strength.
The most important attributes of a sales coaching relationship includes:
- That the dialogue is constant and ongoing it's not situated around the periodic review.
- The feedback must be timely and it has to be offered at a point where an issue or a problem arises.
- It is important to understand that the manager simply coaches and mentors but the employee ultimately performs.
- In order for a good mentoring process to occur there must be a good relationship. In other words both sides must be approachable whenever and wherever.
- The employee must be able to be coached. Some people simply do not like the told by others how to improve performance therefore is how will to have someone who really wants the assistance to improve.
Counseling on the other hand is a short-term sequence of interactions with sales professionals that results in either restored or acceptable performance or unfortunately and when necessary the employee leaves the job where they can perform better. Counseling is essential to improving sales performance yet few sales managers ever engage systematically and most don't effectively engage in it at all. The reason being is that many sales managers might believe that counseling requires too much time and effort of which they don't have and that the employee might actually engage them in too much conflict.
The following is a checklist when you need to use sales counseling:
- Determine if the poor performance is caused by a lack of skills or simply a poor attitude.
- Focus on the behavior of the individual.
- Get agreement on the standard and the actual performance.
- Discuss the impact of the performance on others in the organization. Remember here to keep things objective never personal.
- Discuss the alternatives and consequences and actually have the employee, suggest some solutions.
- Establish action plans and dates so that the employee can be held to accountability standards.
- Constantly review and monitor the process.
©2011. Drew Stevens PhD All rights reserved.